5 Big Men New Orleans Pelicans Should Pair with Anthony Davis
It's clear that the New Orleans Pelicans need to find Anthony Davis a real frontcourt partner. While Ryan Anderson is an excellent perimeter shooter, he doesn't free up Davis to do all the things defensively that he can, and Anderson doesn't help on the defensive glass nearly enough.
The Pelicans have trotted out all kinds of players next to Davis, like Jason Smith, Alexis Ajinca and others, but that perfect fit hasn't been found yet.
That's in part because Davis is so versatile and multitalented.
"There’s nothing he can’t do on the court. He’s clearly a David Robinson type," Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told John Reid of The Times-Picayune. "He blocks shots, changes shots, the offensive rebounding and then you can see his skill level. He can shoot and catch and go off a drive. He’s a great kind of talent."
Davis can mesh with just about any center or power forward, but the goal is to accentuate his abilities and have him playing without limitations.
With that in mind, here are five players who could be available via trade or free agency and look great next to Davis in New Orleans.
I've been pushing for a swap of Greg Monroe and Ryan Anderson for a long time now, but with Stan Van Gundy taking over in Detroit, it makes more sense than ever before.
Anderson started his career with Van Gundy in Orlando, where he really honed his skills as a stretch 4. With Josh Smith and Andre Drummond locked in for Detroit, the Pistons will need shooting wherever they can find it, and a familiar player might not hurt either.
As for Monroe, he'd be coming to familiar territory as well, as he grew up in Louisiana.
For New Orleans, pairing Monroe with Davis would be a perfect match. Monroe could take the bulkier assignments and occupy the paint, but he'd also provide incredible passing out of either post. There may be some floor spacing issues, but Monroe's intelligence would negate much of that.
Building around two twin towers up front for the future would give New Orleans some of the direction they need.
With Monroe gearing up to receive a max offer in restricted free agency, perhaps Van Gundy and company would welcome a sign-and-trade deal that would net them a valuable contributor with a desperately needed skill set in Anderson.
Is it a little far-fetched? Probably, but that shouldn't stop the Pelicans from dangling any asset other than Davis to try and land Kevin Love.
While it seems unlikely that he would agree to re-sign with New Orleans, it might be worth a shot. Throw multiple first-round picks Minnesota's way. Give up Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday or Eric Gordon along with any other players.
Basically, tell Minnesota to name its price.
It still won't happen, but if New Orleans can shed salary in advance of the 2015 offseason, perhaps that would be the most realistic route to pairing Love with Davis.
And oh, what a pairing that would be. Love could handle the glass defensively and take on bulkier assignments, leaving Davis free to blow up pick-and-rolls and block shots from the weak side. Offensively, two skilled big men could trade off inside-outside duties, giving each other the space to operate.
This would be, with no exaggeration, one of the best 4-5 combos in league history. It's very unlikely to happen, but never say never.
Snap back to reality, and let's look at a realistic free agent whom the capped-out Pelicans could actually sign via an exception.
Jordan Hill may not bring a lot of name value to the table, but he'd be a surprisingly good fit in the same frontcourt as Davis.
Hill's relentless energy on the glass would be welcomed, and New Orleans could play fast without giving up size. That might be a pipe dream with Monty Williams roaming the sidelines, but it's intriguing nonetheless.
While the Pelicans might not be comfortable having Hill play 35 minutes per game next to Davis, he could play a solid 20-25 if New Orleans decides to stick with Ryan Anderson for his shooting. Hill should come relatively cheap (around the $5.5 million mid-level exception), and as New Orleans knows all too well, finding productive big men at a bargain is no picnic.
There are better fits than Hill out there for Davis, particularly offensively, but this is a decent stopgap option until a legitimate starter can be acquired.
Nikola Vucevic might be one of those realistic trade targets.
With his rookie deal running out after this season and the Orlando Magic facing the real possibility of paying him during the 2015 offseason where cap room should probably be kept available to recruit multiple stars, perhaps Orlando would listen to a deal that involved a guard like Austin Rivers and a future first-round pick.
Maybe Orlando won't give up Vucevic that easily, but keep an eye on what happens with their fourth and 12th picks in the draft this year. If the Magic take a center like Joel Embiid, for example, that would make Vucevic a little more expendable.
While it's hard to say if New Orleans would have enough juice to land him, particularly since most of the roster is on contract through 2015, he'd be a nice piece next to Davis in the same frontcourt. Vucevic, like everyone else on this list, is an excellent rebounder, but he also offers a nice jumper to keep driving lanes clear.
We don't often talk about the 23-year-old as being one of the league's better young big men, but he's pretty talented and has produced at a high level at such a young age. He'd look even better next to a player like Davis.
Here's another player to keep an eye on after draft day. If the Cleveland Cavaliers choose a potential franchise big man over a guy like Andrew Wiggins, perhaps that will make Anderson Varejao available in a trade.
He is productive as a rebounder and defender, but his injury woes should sink his trade value a bit. Varejao's age (31) and expiring deal might be cause for concern as well, but if the Cavs became interested in a shooter like Eric Gordon, maybe this could work out.
That seems unlikely, though, especially if Cleveland still has big plans of bringing LeBron James back home in 2015. Gordon is plenty injury-prone as well, but there's less of a long-term commitment with Varejao, and Embiid's injury history probably makes keeping Varejao around as insurance a worthwhile investment.
If the Pelicans could pry Varejao loose, however, they'd give Davis his best frontcourt fit to date. Varejao is a pretty good passer and intelligent overall player, which would help shore up defensive rotations while quickening the ball movement offensively. There's a lot to like here.
Again, this may be a signing to keep in mind for 2015 if New Orleans can clear the space, as Varejao should be an unrestricted free agent at that point.
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